The UBCO Student Housing Crunch: Are You Prepared for the 2024 Year

BC Short Term Rental Ban
As the 2024/2025 academic year fast approaches, students at the University of British Columbia Okanagan (UBCO) face a significant challenge in finding accommodations. This issue gets worse every year. This year, it might be next to impossible: Today (May 1st, 2024), over 1,000 short-term rental properties that traditionally served as student accommodations from September through April will no longer be available in September due to the BC NDP’s Short-Term Rental Accommodations Act.

Impact of the Short-Term Rental Ban

Starting May 1, 2024, a new provincial rule limits short-term rentals to the host’s principal residence and one secondary suite or accessory dwelling. This change aims to alleviate the general housing crisis in British Columbia by returning these units to the long-term rental market. However, this well-intentioned policy will have unintended consequences for UBCO students. Because they came furnished and offered an 8-month lease, many students relied on these short-term rentals as a reliable housing option during the academic year. With these options off the market, students will now have to sign 12-month leases and buy furniture to furnish the condos.

The Current Housing Landscape at UBCO

UBCO has been increasing the availability of on-campus housing, but it just can't keep up. Currently, UBCO has 12,000 students and provides on-campus housing for about 18% of its students, with a total of 2,120 beds. Most of the beds are reserved for first-year students, which leaves returning students out of luck. Despite UBCO's efforts to build more student housing, the demand far exceeds the supply, especially with the campus's yearly enrollment growth.

What are your Options

Off-Campus Housing

With the short-term rental ban, students will be forced to look a lot farther off-campus and enter into a long lease, often costing them over $10,000 per year. The rental market in Kelowna is already extremely tight, and this extra demand will drive up rental prices. Students now have to compete with fellow students and locals, which could significantly limit their options. Over 500 condo units on Academy Way were built for students. Renting one of these condos can be hard because they are individually owned, and there is no central database to search for them. They also rent months before school starts. 

Other Options

UBCO is encouraging Kelowna residents to consider renting their spare rooms to students during the academic year. This might sound like a good plan, but I don't see it taking off.

Financial Strain

The cost of living in BC and rising tuition fees and living expenses place additional financial strain on students. Those who can't find housing close to campus will have to live farther away and either have a car (and pay for parking) or take public transit, which means they will have very long commutes.

Looking Ahead

The university administration and student organizations must collaborate to find innovative solutions to this growing problem. Potential strategies could include building more on-campus housing, seeking partnerships with developers, or even implementing a shuttle service for student rentals built off campus.

As UBCO enrolment grows, the challenge of providing student housing will only worsen. The recent ban on short-term rentals adds another layer of complexity to this issue. The University, its students and the community must pressure the provincial government and city council to address these issues and ensure all students have access to housing. 

The success of our students and the vibrancy of our academic community depend on it.

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